Is America Free From Systemic Evil?

In all of the rhetoric around whether Social Justice is Biblical Justice and whether Critical Race Theory (For my Podacst on CRT, click Here) is pure evil or not, is the ostensible denial of the reality of systemic evil, or at least American systemic evil. That’s puzzling to me, since the same scriptures we all hold dearly to, tell me that “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9), and that “there is none righteous, no, not one” (Romans 3:10), and that “we have all sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23), yet the systems, created by us individual sinners, are not evil? Hmm? That’s a bit weird. Didn’t John teach us not to ‘love the world, nor the things in the world, If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.…the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life? (1 John 2:15-16).

Now I’m pretty sure John isn’t contradicting John 3:16, where God so loved the world…’ right? So how do the two verses harmonize? Simple, one is talking about people in the world (John 3:16), while the other is talking about the world systems (1 John 2). The world systems are comprised of greed, pride, lust, etc., and we are not to love those things, those systems that are very much part of the world, and are instrumental in creating schemes that have oppressed many people throughout world history. If that’s true, then why do we have such a hard time believing that it may be possible that all of our systems are not what they should be? Don’t we believe this world is broken? How is it that the world is broken, but the American ‘system’ isn’t? Is it possible that we are blinded by an idol that is bigger than our love of Christ and His word? Could that idol be an American born idol, that looks at our constitution and our precepts as ‘blessed‘ by God, and free from any kind of systemic transgressions? We seem to eschew all of ‘man-made’ theories and systems except for one, the American one. But isn’t this idol worship? How is this different than what God calls out in the prophets, particularly in Amos, who is a prophet predominantly to northern Palestine (Israel). In Amos 2:6-7 when the prophet writes on behalf of God, he says…

For three transgressions of Israel, and for four, I will not revoke the punishment, because they sell the righteous for silver, and the needy for a pair of sandals…those who trample the head of the poor into the dust of the earth and turn aside the way of the afflicted; a man and his father go into the same girl so that my Holy Name is profaned

Amos 2:6-7

Note how he calls out the nation of Israel for their sins, because as a nation, they were compliant in their negative treatment of the poor. What’s interesting about Amos, is although most of the judgment is aimed at Israel as a whole, he does take a shot at what he calls the “cows of Bashan’ in Amos 4:1-2 when he says…

Here His words you cows of Bashan, who are on the mountain of Samaria, who oppress the poor, who say to their husbands, ‘Bring, that we may drink!’ The Lord GOD has sworn by His holiness that, Behold the days are coming upon you, when they shall take you away with fish hooks, even the last of you with fishhook.”

Amos 4:1-2

Bashan was a place in Northern Jordan that was known for its plush pasture and select cows. Sort of like Kobe (Wagyu) beef today which comes from the Kobe Region of Japan, and is currently a delicacy of fine, expensive beef. The derogatory use of ‘cows of Bashan’ is not related as some believe to the women’s figures, but to their opulent life style as a result of the oppression of their husbands or their leaders’ toward the poor. Some commentators even think that the Bashan region, which did have this lucrative cattle business, may have been built on the backs of those they oppressed. I bring up the cows of Bashan, because God’s justice is aiming at not just the perpetrators, but the consumer who overlooks the injustice, because they enjoy their comfort, while ignoring the oppression that has given them this comfort. This is NOT a shot at rich people, and therefore, eschews any Marxist comparisons, but it is a shot at greedy people who enjoy the fruit of oppression by overlooking the injustice of the systems that produce the fruit they enjoy. This is a grave warning to any opulent nation or culture that overlooks any systemic issues that may be causing some to be prosperous, while others suffer as a result of their opulence. In the bible there is no such thing as evil wealthy people and good poor people. In God’s economy you will find righteous wealthy people, and unrighteous wealthy people, as well as, righteous poor people and unrighteous poor people. The fact is some are poor because of their sinful actions. There is no binary evil which we see in tenets of Marxism and CRT, that sees the oppressed as good and the oppressor as evil. As I said in the beginning, we ALL ‘have sinned and fall short of the kingdom of God,’ so this isn’t a Marxist rant against those with money, but it is an exhortation to many Americans who have benefited from a system that may have benefited some throughout its history and not others. This questions the simplistic assertion that there is no ‘systemic evil’ here in America, which seems to be the mantra of those that feel it is now ok to ignore systemic issues since CRT is “Marxist.”

The question we need to ask ourselves is “am I rejecting the potential of systemic racial issues here in America based on a close examination of our history, our laws, and our academic curriculum, or is it based on a favorably biased impression you have of our nation? I’m not asking anyone to hate our country. I personally love being an American, it has granted me many blessings such as an education and a comfortable life, but should I ignore the ugly because I’m blinded by the beauty and attached to the comfort? It’s sort of like Tony Soprano’s (Mafia) family ignoring what he does and how he became wealthy because they enjoy the fruit of his ‘labor.’ Shouldn’t we as believers want to be peacemakers, reconcilers and be known for our desire to fight against any kind of injustice? Is that anti-Christian? It appears that way, since many conservative believers are accusing those that might misuse the term ‘social justice.’ If the word is your hang up, then drop the ‘social,’ but don’t ignore the justice. Even Christian author Edwin Lutzer who wrote a book against CRT and the Social Justice Warriors (SJW) acknowledges that “Marx was right in pointing out that oppression exists, often in horrible ways. But his solutions are entirely wrongheaded and destructive.[1] Amen! Though I do not concur with the whole book, I can agree to that, which articulates my point. We can learn from even pagan writers such as Marx, and theories such as CRT, but our solutions are NEVER from them, but from the implications of God’s word, His story, the gospel! None of these theories or writers have a redemptive plan that works and that includes the shapers of our own American constitution! When we conflate the gospel with the Constitution, we destroy both!

The fact is, the bible teaches us that Satan is the ‘god of this world (2 Corinthians 4:4),’ and that there are clearly principalities and powers (Ephesians 6:12) that govern human governments and human systems, and we are not to give our total allegiance to any of the world’s programs. We live in that world, a very broken world, where we are stained by sin and forced to live under leaders and governments that are less than God intended and tainted with unbelief and sin, yet we somehow feel that imperfect men and women have created a ‘godly’ system without prejudice, which seems both naïve and even heretical. To not acknowledge both individual sin and collective sin (Systems) misreads the bible and 2000 years of world history, which almost always ends in some sort of nationalistic, jingoistic gospel rather than the biblical gospel that challenges all systems, left and the right, and points everyone to the only King worth giving our allegiance.

As believers we live in two worlds; the world that we are physically located in here on earth, and the Kingdom of God, which has to take precedence over any other kingdom and human system, while at the same time, being ambassadors to our earthly kingdom, so as to bring reconciliation to this broken kingdom, rather than anarchy or indifference to its problems (See 2 Corinthians 5:17-20), because For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God (2 Corinthians 5:21).

Standing up for injustices in our culture is NOT Mission Drift, which many popular pastors and commentators accuse anyone standing up for racial injustice, since they say it pulls away from the mission of the church, which is to make disciples (Matthew 28:19-20). Is standing against the world’s systems truly Mission Creep? Actually that’s another story for another day, but the short of it is NO! No doubt our mission is to preach the gospel and make disciples, but we are also called “to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world” (James 1:27). It is NOT an either/or. Part of discipleship is sacrifice of our own rights for the sake of others and the glory of God (See 2 Corinthians 5:21; 8:9). The bible reflects a God who deeply cares for the marginalized, poor and downtrodden, and He hates injustice and oppression of any kind. So why is this a problem? Jesus didn’t feel it was mission creep to take on the world’s problems. He demonstrated to us an ‘adoptive love‘ which took on our problems even though he didn’t create the problems, so instead of blaming others and saying, ‘He didn’t create the problem,’ He took on the problem for our sake, as 2 Corinthians 5:21 reminds us “He, who knew no sin became sin for us…” So, we too are called, as Ambassadors to do the same (2 Corinthians 5:20), and take on the problems of our world in order to demonstrate what God’s Kingdom looks like. Amongst other commissioned acts in the bible, we are actually called to pray for our leaders (1 Timothy 2:1-2) and even to honor them (Romans 13), rather than spend our entire time on social media maligning them; we are also called to give to those in need (1 John 3:17), to “do justice, and to love kindness and walk humbly with our God” (Micah 6:8) and then realize our hope is found in our faithful allegiance to Christ alone, not America, the Constitution or any of man’s frivolous attempts to ‘save’ the world (See Psalm 20:7; 44:6; 49:6).

The problem is that too many of us have placed our hope in _________________ fill in the blank for our country, or favorite politician to save the day, or some system such as capitalism, socialism, Marxism or any ‘ism’. As ambassadors who live here, we are called to live as peacefully as we can with this world (Romans 12:18) and use our right to vote, and participate in any way we can to create peace, and serve this kingdom, but we do not have a right at any time to hate others, cancel our Christian brothers and sisters, and to place our hope, joy and allegiance in another King but our King, Lord Jesus! I want to end in some wise words from Pastor John Piper in relation to our call to be ambassadors of another Kingdom, rather than hacks for man’s kingdom…

“I’m one hundred times more passionate about creating Christians and churches that will be faithful, biblical, counter-cultural, and spiritually minded in a socialist America, in a Muslim America, in a communist America, than I am in preventing a Muslim America or a communist America. That puts me in a very different ballpark than many public voices.

John Piper

Is American politics more important to you than the gospel? Is your understanding of America clouded by your allegiance, or is it based on an erudite understanding of our history looked through the lens of the biblical story, and God’s desire for His people and His Kingdom? Where’s your allegiance?

[1] Lutzer, Edwin, We Will Not Be Silenced: Responding Courageously to Our Culture’s Assault on Christianity, pg. 25 (Kindle)

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